Professional Development
Design / Hackathons / Nonprofits / Universities

Despite challenges, MICA commits to supporting local art, design and nonprofits through Grassroots DesignFest

MICA and the T. Rowe Price Foundation’s sixth iteration of this event, which aims to help Baltimore nonprofits improve their visual identity, will take place on March 25.

MICA's Brown Center, where the 2023 Grassroots DesignFest will take place. (Photo by Flickr user Kristian Bjornard, used via a Creative Commons license)

This editorial article is a part of Universities Month 2023 in’s editorial calendar.

Full disclosure: This editorial article focuses on an event sponsored by the T. Rowe Price Foundation. The charitable organization is the philanthropic arm of T. Rowe Price, a Talent Pro client. That relationship is unrelated to this report.

Even as it withstands a pandemic-related decline in student enrollment and some major organizational restructuring, the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) has committed to hosting its annual Grassroots DesignFest event on Saturday.

For six years, the event has supported community organizations in Baltimore with fresh marketing materials. The event was conceived by the T. Rowe Price Foundation, the charitable arm of the eponymous Inner Harbor-based investment manager, to help nonprofits grow their capacities.

“Oftentimes, we hear that nonprofits are seeking help with marketing and communications, whether it be with branding, design or storytelling,” explained Sabrina Thorton, T. Rowe Price’s creativity and innovation officer. “DesignFest seeks to address some of those challenges, and we’re excited that we can continue the foundation’s support of arts and culture across Baltimore city.”

During this year’s iteration, Open Works, a community organization in Baltimore, is trying to improve the accessibility of information for its members. Open Works thus enlisted the help of Grassroots DesignFest volunteers to create a design for its member handbook.

“Our goal is to have a digital document that we can update as needed so that our members have access to all the information they need at all times,” said Open Works Membership Manager April Lewis.

“While the design solutions generated during Grassroots DesignFest are rarely finished products, they are often starting points from which participating nonprofits can further develop design tools and concepts,” added MICA Director of Strategic Partnerships Kevin Griffin Moreno, who also noted that there was no internal discussion about how MICA’s restructuring might impact DesignFest.

With over 125 volunteers — including 54 returning volunteers, 35 professional designers and 34 MICA alumni — Grassroots DesignFest is seeing the most returning volunteers and MICA alumni participating in the event’s history. Additionally, 26 undergraduate and graduate students from universities such as MICA, Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland contributed their skills to the event.

Those interested can join them at MICA’s Brown Center on Saturday, March 25.

Learn more about DesignFest

Companies: T. Rowe Price / Maryland Institute College of Art

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